|Publication number||US7343323 B1|
|Application number||US 09/650,045|
|Publication date||Mar 11, 2008|
|Filing date||Aug 29, 2000|
|Priority date||Aug 29, 2000|
|Also published as||CA2420678A1, WO2002019205A2, WO2002019205A8|
|Publication number||09650045, 650045, US 7343323 B1, US 7343323B1, US-B1-7343323, US7343323 B1, US7343323B1|
|Inventors||William T. Geddes, Jr., Peter N. Chase, Thomas G. Gherardi|
|Original Assignee||Gcg, Llc|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (40), Non-Patent Citations (10), Referenced by (6), Classifications (11), Legal Events (6)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The present invention relates to systems and methods for transacting business in general, and more particularly to systems and methods for associating users and providers over the Internet.
In order to sell goods and services at relatively low prices, sales volume needs to increase. As such, sellers who can establish a name and a large volume of sales across the state, country, or even across the world, can afford to sell their goods and services at relatively low prices compared to smaller local sellers.
A seller's willingness to sell large volumes of goods at relatively low prices, and a buyer's desire to purchase goods at the lowest price, tends to drive buyers to purchase from large regional, national or even multi-national retail outlets. Thus, the buyer is driven away from the small local “mom and pop” stores of the local communities. If a buyer chooses to avoid purchasing goods or services from the small “mom and pop” stores of the local community, these stores cease to exist. With the loss of these stores, a piece of the community also ceases to exist. Accordingly, there exists a strong need to find a way to balance a buyer's desire to purchase goods and services at relatively low prices, with the need to maintain links to the local community.
Other than buying goods or services from the local community, a buyer of today can choose to purchase goods or services, or find information, on the Internet. However, to do so, a buyer must conduct a search of a great deal of information existing on the internet, and thereafter must progressively attempt to narrow the search until the desired good, service or information is found. Thus, there exists a need to find a quick and efficient way to locate providers of goods, services or information specifically desired by the buyer. Further, there also exists a need to find a way to tie the internet to the local community of the buyer.
The present invention is directed to a system and method that offers a user (such as a buyer or consumer) a fast and efficient way to progressively expand a search for providers of specified “search objects” including goods, services, or information; while maintaining a desired link to a specified “beneficiary group” including a particular geographic community, community of interest, or user-preferred class of provider. More specifically, the system and method permits the association of the user and/or provider of a specified search object with at least one of a plurality of such beneficiary groups. The system and method affords the user an arrangement for searching for a provider associated with a user-specified beneficiary group or groups. Thus, a user may conduct a targeted search for a specified search object from providers associated with a similarly specified beneficiary group. The search object or beneficiary group can thereafter be expanded by the user, until the user selects a provider of the user-specified goods, services or information, associated with the user-specified beneficiary group(s).
The present invention will become more fully understood from the detailed description given herein below and the accompanying drawings which are given by way of illustration only, and thus are not limitative of the present invention, wherein like reference numerals represent like elements and wherein:
The various aspects of the present invention provide a user (including buyers and consumers) with an arrangement for searching on a computer device in an efficient manner, to obtain a provider of information, goods or services desired by the user; and also provide the user with the ability to maintain desired associations to specified beneficiary groups (such as those of a specified local community, for example). The user first associates with (by pre-registration or later specification) at least one of a plurality of beneficiary groups; and the associated beneficiary group is utilized in combination with a user-specified search request, to search for a user-specified search object (including information, goods or services) from a provider associated with a beneficiary group of the user. Thus, the method and system of the invention permits a user-specified search of a limited universe of providers associated with a beneficiary group common to the user.
The search arrangement preferably includes a synergistic dynamically modifiable concentric circle arrangement. The concentric circles are preferably expandable such that a user can first specify a beneficiary group(s) (by default after pre-registration or by a specified input), such as the local Korean Methodist Church for example; and after having received a null or otherwise unsatisfactory search result, can then expand the search by expanding the specified beneficiary group(s), to include all Korean churches for example. The synergistic concentric circle arrangement is preferably not only used to expand the beneficiary group, but can also be used to expand the search in other ways, such as geographically for example. A search can originally be limited to preferred providers who are members of the Korean Methodist Church of Fairfax, Va., and can later be expanded to include all members of the all the Korean Churches in the state of Virginia.
By means of such a search, the user is able to identify a provider of a desired good, service or piece of information who is associated with the user-specified beneficiary group. Thus, the user maintains beneficial commercial ties to the community, and/or to one or more beneficiary groups.
Throughout this application, use of the term “user” designates any user specifying any type of desired good, service or information, including but not limited to a buyer and a consumer; use of the term “provider” encompasses any entity such as sellers or distributors, offering any good, service or information, for any reason including but not limited to purchase, distribution, rent or otherwise; and “computer device” encompasses any type device with a central processor including, but not limited to, a personal computer, PDA, wireless mobile phone, etc. Further, a “beneficiary group” includes any group or organization that a user or provider desires to help or associate with, including, but not limited to, a particular geographic community (e.g. “Fairfax Va.”), a community of interest (e.g. the Boy Scouts of America) and a user-preferred class of providers (e.g. a college or university, a charitable organization, a church, etc.). Finally, “search object” includes, but is not limited to, any user-specified good, service or information desired by the user.
Accordingly, as depicted in
The CPU 260 is adapted to receive a request for a “search object”, from a computer device of the user, for a provider of a good, service or information associated with a user-specified beneficiary group(s); and is adapted to search for providers of the user-specified good, service or information who are members of, or otherwise associated with, the user-specified beneficiary group(s). This is preferably done based in a dynamically expandable synergistic concentric circle arrangement based upon the search request and at least one beneficiary group associated with the user. If a matching provider is found, a result of the search is output to the computer device.
As shown in
With regard to the beneficiary group 335, its registration not only acts to establish a link between a provider 330 and the user 300 for search purposes, but its registration also enables it to benefit from transactions (for goods, services or information) occurring therebetween as a result of the search. For example, in another preferred embodiment of the invention, not only does the system act as a search system, but it also acts to link a user 300 and provider 330 to conduct business transactions regarding the requested good, service or information. Accordingly, the owner of the information server 320 can set up the system so that the owner receives a small percentage of the proceeds of any transaction, occurring as a result of a search, between provider 330 and user 300, wherein a portion of the percentage of the proceeds or another small percentage of the transaction, is also sent to the registered beneficiary group 335 associated with the transaction. Thus, beneficiary group 335 will be encouraged to register with the information server 320 and the user 300 will know that he is not only purchasing from a provider 330 associated with a common beneficiary group, but that any transaction resulting from a search will result in a benefit to his/her specified beneficiary group.
It should be noted that while, for typical exemplary purposes, a user 300 may be designated as a consumer and a provider 330 may be designated as a distributor of goods, services or information, this need not always be the case. The present invention is not so limited. For example, two providers can also register and interact in a transaction, wherein one provider acts as user 300 and the other provider acts as provider 330 (the so-called business to business or b to b transaction, as opposed to the typical customer to business or c to b transaction). In addition, a consumer to consumer transaction can also occur, for any of goods, services, or information, wherein one consumer acts as user 300 and another consumer registers and acts as provider 330 to thereby establish a customer to customer transaction (c to c transaction).
Once the aforementioned information has been registered and stored in the registration database 294 of the information server 320, a search can be conducted by user 300. In fact, as long as providers 330 are registered so as to distribute goods, services or information, user 300 can input a beneficiary group to thereby associate him or herself for the beneficiary group, without the need to formally register in association with one or more beneficiary groups. Thus, a user 300 can either input and thereby specify a beneficiary group(s), or register in association with one or more beneficiary groups (or both), to be able to locate a provider of desired goods, services or information similarly associated with the beneficiary group. Accordingly, users 300 need not complete any formal registration process before beginning a search on the present system, and the system and method of the present invention is not so limited.
Further, a user 300 need not necessarily input a beneficiary group along with an input search request. Such a beneficiary group(s) may be associated with a serch object of a user by default. For example, if the user 300 is registered in association with a beneficiary group, or if the user 300 is registered with a plurality of prioritized or hierarchically ranked beneficiary groups, then a beneficiary group or groups may, by default, automatically be specified and associated with the input search request of a user 300. As such, a provider 330 associated with the registered beneficiary group of the user 300, will be located without input in association with the search request. Of course, it should be understood that such defaults may and will be overridden by a beneficiary group input by the user 300 along with a search object, as part of an input search request. Further, it should also be understood that a beneficiary group to be associated with a search of a user 300 may be varied by the user 300 “on-the-fly”, in response to a null or otherwise unsatisfactory search result for example.
The search may thereafter be expanded, in response to a user 300 receiving a null or otherwise unsatisfactory search result for example, based on predetermined and assigned priorities or by expanding the search parameter(s) or beneficiary group(s) in response to a prompt. The prompt could be one indicating null or otherwise unsatisfactory search results based on the initial search, or one requesting further expansion. In either event, by expanding an input parameter or by expanding or making more general the designation, of the beneficiary group (either through re-input or in an originally input prioritized or hierarchical manner), a second synergistic concentric circle of the search arrangement is formed. Thus, a dynamic capability to expand the synergistic concentric circle arrangement is preferably provided. Still further, the search may be varied by further expanding (or even contracting to narrow an overly-broad second synergistic concentric circle) aspects of the search object, other aspects of the search request, or beneficiary group, thereby expanding the second synergistic concentric circle to form a third concentric circle and so on. This process can be repeated by the user 300 in a similar manner, until a satisfactory search result and desired provider 330 are located.
As shown in
In Step S10, the user 300 adds to the search request, via input into the computer device, a search object, namely a type of good, service or information that is desired by the user 300, in an attempt to locate a provider 330 of such a desired good, service or information, who is associated with the user-specified beneficiary group. Such a search object can generally describe a good, service or information desired (such as a camera, for example, to provide a large expensive search), or can specifically describe the desired good, service or information (such as a Canon digital camera, for example) to provide a narrower search. Further, the search request can (but need not) also include additional parameters further restricting the search, such as geographic parameters specifying a location of the provider for example. These can be input in Step S15. These can include specific locations, such as Fairfax Va. or general locations such as Virginia, for example. The geographic parameters can be used to limit searches to providers 330 within a local community.
Thereafter, in Step S20, the user 300 may be provided with the option to set priorities with regard to expansion of the search request to a new synergistic concentric circle involving an additional beneficiary group, or synergistic concentric circle expansion of the same beneficiary group in Step S20. For example, the user may be provided with the option to set priorities so that a first search can be conducted utilizing the specific beneficiary group of the Korean Methodist Church, and an expanded second search can thereafter be conducted utilizing the Korean Church generally, if a null or otherwise unsatisfactory search result is obtained. Further, the user 300 may also be provided with the option to set priorities regarding additional beneficiary groups such that a first search can be conducted utilizing the Korean Methodist Church, and a second search can be conducted thereafter utilizing the Boy Scouts of America. Each of these aspects will be described further with regard to
Finally, in Step S25, the user 300 may be provided with the ability to optionally set additional parameter priorities. For example, a user 300 can designate a first search to be conducted based upon providers 330 located in Fairfax, Va., with a second expanded search being conducted based upon providers 330 being located anywhere in Virginia, utilizing geographical expansion of the synergistic concentric circles in a preset or prioritized manner as shown in Step S25.
Accordingly, all of the input search request information, including various input elements or parameters of the search request and the user-specified beneficiary group(s), is received at the information server 120. Thereafter, the server 120 conducts a search for all providers 330 of the requested good, service or information, who are associated with the user-specified beneficiary group(s) (associated with the user) and who match any additional parameters (such as geographic parameters, for example), in Step S30. Results of any located providers 330 matching the search criteria and associated beneficiary group, are then output to and preferably displayed to the user 300. This will be discussed further in association with
In Step S35, it is determined whether or not the search needs to be expanded. In other words, has the user 300 received a null or otherwise unsatisfactory search result. At this time, the user 300 can review the names, locations, and other information regarding the providers 330 located in the search (if any such providers 330 have been located based on all of the above-noted parameters), and if none of these providers 330 are acceptable or if no providers 330 have been located, the user 300 has the option to expand the search. This is one way which serves to prompt expansion of at least one synergistic concentric circle. The expansion can be done based on previously prioritized expansion, if initially designated. Alternatively, it can be done manually by expanding the beneficiary group(s), by expanding the designation of the search object, by expanding the geographical local of the provider 330, etc. Thus, dynamic expansion capabilities to dynamically expand at least one of the synergistic concentric circles is provided.
As previously stated, this “secondary” or expanded search can be done automatically in a prioritized manner by setting search expansion priorities prior to conducting the search or can be conducted after the user 300 has viewed the results of an initial search. If the search does need to be expanded, then the process moves from Step 35 back to Step 5 to repeat any or all of Steps S5 to S25, and thereafter repeat the search of Step S30 (or moves to Step S30 to execute an expanded search based upon preset expansion priorities). If the search does not need to be expanded and the user 300 is satisfied with the results of the search, the search is ended. At this time, if the user 300 so desires, the user 300 can select and transact business with a selected provider 330. For example, the user 300 can click on a hyperlink, and link to a website of a selected provider 330 (or can find the address and walk, drive, etc. directly to the provider 330 itself) to conduct a business transaction for the desired good, service or information. This will be discussed in more detail regarding
Accordingly, as such, users 300 of the system and providers 330 of a good, service or information are commonly associated with at least one beneficiary group. By using beneficiary groups, an arrangement is provided to the user 300, for searching for a provider 330 based upon a search request input to a computer device, wherein the provider 330 is associated with the beneficiary group specified by and associated with the user 300. More preferably, an input search request including a user-specified associated beneficiary group are received from a computer device of a user 300, and a provider 330 is searched for based upon a synergistic concentric circle search arrangement, using the received input search request including the user-specified beneficiary group. A synergistic concentric circle arrangement may be expanded (by further input information, for example) and further such expansion may be prioritized based upon originally input information received from the user 300 for expanding various search parameters and/or designations of a beneficiary group or groups. The information server 120 of the present invention utilizes the database (such as database 290), adapted to store information associating the user 300 with at least one beneficiary group and a provider 330 with at least one beneficiary group; as well as a controller such as CPU 260, adapted to receive information from the user 300, to conduct the search and eventually provide a search result to the user 300 including a provider 330 associated with the user-specified beneficiary group.
In the general search request part 705, the user 300 can optionally be provided with first input area 710 for inputting the search request, namely the desired good, service, or information forming the basis or main part of an input search request. Thereafter, a second input section 720 can optionally be provided, for input of a beneficiary group. If the user 300 has been pre-registered with the system, or if the user 300 has used the system before, a default beneficiary group can optionally appear in area 720. Of course, if pre-registration has occurred, the display of the beneficiary group is optional, as it need not occur at all. Further, as areas 710 and 720 are only exemplary it should be understood that a single search request input area can be provided for input of the requested search object, optional search parameters, as well as the input or previously associated user-specified beneficiary group.
Other input areas can optionally be provided such as an additional parameter input area 715 for adding other search parameters to the search request such as geographic parameters for example; an additional beneficiary group input area for designating secondary, tertiary, etc., beneficiary groups in an area 720; and/or an area 725 for setting additional search priorities to act as expansion parameters for expanding one or more synergistic concentric circles of the synergistic concentric circle arrangement. The search can begin, and the search request can be received by the information server 120, by thereafter activating a start or enter button on the computer device of the user (through a touch panel, keyboard etc.), for example.
With regard to any input search parameter or beneficiary group of the search request, it should be understood that any Boolean operator can also be input to expand or restrict the search. For example, as the beneficiary group, the user 300 can input and thus specify both the Korean Methodist Church and the Boy Scouts of America by inputting both beneficiary groups linked by an “OR” operator. Similarly, the search can be restricted only to providers associated with both beneficiary groups by using the “AND” operator. Geographic parameters can be so designated, as can search objects including goods, services and information. As synonyms may exist for a good, such as a cup or a mug, the user can utilize the Boolean “OR” to input “cup or mug” as the search object of the search request, for example.
Of course, it should be understood that prioritized searches as an expansion of at least one synergistic concentric circle of a synergistic concentric circle arrangement can be set at any number of ways, including but not limited to, separate prioritized searches; all expansion parameters being separately designated and prioritized; expanded searches being separately input and prioritized along with associated beneficiary groups; etc.
The other half of the display screen 700 of
Thereafter, if a null search results or if the user 300 is not pleased with the results of the search, prioritized expansion of at least one of the synergistic concentric circles can be conducted, or manual expansion of at least one of the synergistic concentric circles can be conducted by further expanding or more generally describing the type of good, service or information requested; expanding the designated beneficiary group(s); choosing a secondary beneficiary group; expanding the geography of the search; etc. For prioritized searching, the new search terms can automatically appear in windows 705; can automatically be activated if no providers 330 are located in response to the initial search, or can be activated by activating a new enter or search key. For manual search expansion, new terms are entered and the enter or search key is again hit to execute the expanded search. Hereafter, various examples of the preferred search arrangement, utilizing a synergistic concentric circle search arrangement of the present application, will be described.
Thereafter, if no matching providers 330 are located based upon the input search request including the user-specified beneficiary group, or if the user 300 receives unsatisfactory results, the search can be expanded. The second synergistic concentric circle illustrated in
As shown in
Initially, in Step S100 the information server 120, 220, 320, etc., receives an input search request for a provider 330 of a good, service or information from a user 300, along with a designated beneficiary group 335. The received information can include an input or default beneficiary group(s); the good, service, or information desired; and the additional parameters such as geographical parameters; any priorities regarding the beneficiary group(s); any other additional parameter priorities; etc. as previously discussed with regard to
If at least one related provider 330 has been found in Step S120, the process proceeds to Step S130 wherein the related providers 330 are output to the user 300. The information can be output, for example, in a search result chart such as that shown as element 755 in
As such, a method and system are provided for associating the users 300 and providers 330 with at least one of a plurality of beneficiary groups; providing an arrangement relating a user 300 to at least one provider 330 of a desired good, service or information based upon a request for the desired good, service or information input to a computer device of the user 300, with the at least one provider 300 being associated with a user-specified beneficiary group associated with a user 300. A request, including a desired good, service or information is received, along with at least one beneficiary group; a user 300 is then related to at least one provider 330 associated with the same at least one beneficiary group; and arrangement is then made for the user 300 to obtain the requested good, service, or information (by providing a list of providers 330 to the user 300, for example).
More preferably, the system and method provide an arrangement for matching a user 300 with a provider 330 to permit the conducting of a business transaction between the user 300 and the at least one associated provider 330 so that the user 300 can obtain the desired good, service, or information; and even more preferably provide a link (such as a URL address or hyperlink) or address for connecting the user 300 to the at least one provider 330. The system enables such a method by providing the database, adapted to store information associating users 300 and/or providers 330 with at least one beneficiary group; and a controller adapted to perform the process eventually providing an arrangement to the user 300 for transacting business with a provider 330 of a desired good, service, or information and associated with a user-specified beneficiary group of the user 300, to obtain the desired good, service or information.
Further, the system and method of the present application associate a provider 330 of a good, service or information with at least one beneficiary group; and offer the good, service, or information for sale to a user 300. Thus, if the user 300 desires to obtain the offered good, service or information, he can make a request from the computer device and be offered the good, service, or information from a provider 330 associated with the same user-specified beneficiary group.
By providing an output display to the user 300, such as that shown in
With regard to the system and method of the present application, the entity establishing the information server and providing this service to many users 300 and providers 330 can charge a fee to the users 300 for using this service; can charge a fee to the providers 330 for using this service; and/or can charge a fee based on the number of transactions completed utilizing this service; etc. The beneficiary groups 335 signing up to participate in the service can also receive some portion of the proceeds (various overall money and/or fees charged to the providers 330 and/or users 300). Regarding these proceeds splitting arrangements, the example of
In another preferred embodiment of the present application, a unique proceed splitting arrangement has been designed as shown in
However, in conjunction with this novel system and method of the present application, the payment entity 370 instead sends a portion of the proceeds to the provider 330 as shown by number 3 in
As an example, the information server 320 establishes a first arrangement with a provider 330, wherein the information server 320 receives two percent of every sale completed by provider 330. In the same arrangement, the beneficiary group 335 receives an additional one percent of every sale. Thus, when a user 300 purchases a good, service or information from provider 330, instead of the provider 330 having to calculate and account for these percentages and send separate portions of the received proceeds to the information server 320 and/or beneficiary group 335 (or various percentages of sales to various beneficiary groups), no such accounting need take place and the proceed portions owed to the information server 320 and the beneficiary group 335 are allocated automatically from the payment entity 370.
As one of ordinary skill would appreciate, this novel proceeds splitting arrangement can be used in any type of transaction, and is not limited to its use in conjunction with the system and method of
More preferably, the system and method of the present application first determines a business transaction proceeds allocation between a plurality of entities (based upon predetermined percentages stored in memory, for example); and allocates a determined portion of the business transaction proceeds to at least a first and second entity, upon receiving notification of a business transaction. Accordingly, the payment entity 370 can include an information server 220 such as that shown in
As previously stated, the business transaction proceeds allocation is preferably stored in some type of memory such as database storage 290 in a separate information server of the payment entity 370 (separate from the information server 320, for example). The business transaction proceeds allocation can include a fixed fee per transaction for one or more of the entities; and/or can include a predetermined percentage allocation for one or more of the entities. Once allocated, the allocated determined portions of the business transaction proceeds can then be sent to the various entities.
Even more preferably, the payment entity 370 receives a fund distribution request, for distributing funds of a user 300, based upon the business transaction between the user 300 and provider 330. Thereafter, it determines whether or not the fund distribution request is subject to a predetermined business transaction proceeds allocation. In other words, it determines whether or not the request for distribution of funds of the user is one which occurred using an on-line search relationship such as that shown in
The invention being thus described, it will be obvious that the same may varied in many ways. For example, although all examples given indicated a particular product or good being requested, the invention equally applies to any type of service being offered by a provider, and/or any type of information offered by a provider. For example, if a user desires someone who offers housecleaning services, this information is merely input as the search request, along with at least one associated beneficiary group and perhaps some type of geographic parameter, and providers of this service meeting the input criteria and associated with a corresponding beneficiary group will be output to the user. Similarly, a user could merely desire information such as that concerning mutual funds, for example, and such information can be requested along with the associated beneficiary group such that providers of mutual fund information and associated with the user-specified beneficiary group are reported to the user. Such variations are not to be regarded as a departure from the spirit and scope of the invention, and all such modifications as would be obvious to one of ordinary skill in the art are intended to be included within the scope of the following claims.
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|U.S. Classification||705/26.62, 705/17|
|International Classification||G06Q20/20, G06Q30/02, G06Q30/06|
|Cooperative Classification||G06Q30/0625, G06Q20/204, G06Q30/02|
|European Classification||G06Q30/02, G06Q30/0625, G06Q20/204|
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